Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


24.  PROPOSAL FOR A COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) ON MEASURES TO PROMOTE AND PROVIDE INFORMATION ON AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS IN THIRD COUNTRIES (5386/99)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Sub-Committee D considered this proposal yesterday and asked me to write to you to express its concerns about it.

  It is to be welcomed that the sums of money involved under this proposal are smaller than the huge amounts which have previously gone into export refunds, but the Committee is concerned that new agricultural subsidies like this one are still being introduced while old ones are being reduced and the EC is attempting to move agriculture closer to real market conditions. In addition to this general point, the Committee has three questions relating to the proposal.

  The proposal is not supposed to assist particular Member States more than others. How will this be possible given that Member States which export large quantities of agricultural products will inevitably get more help than Member States which do not?

  You mention in your Explanatory Memorandum that the Government will be alert to minimise any pro-Mediterranean bias (paragraph 11). In a positive sense, if the proposal does go ahead, how will the Government ensure that products made in Britain will have their fair share of promotion (whisky, for example)?

  Finally, you also say in your Memorandum that you will try to ensure efficient and cost-effective administration of the proposals (paragraph 11). If funding is given for a trade association to go to a trade fair, how will it be possible to separate out the association's expenditure on "generic" promotion (which may be funded) from expenditure on the promotion of specific products (which may not)?

  The scrutiny reserve is maintained pending a reply.

11 March 1999

Letter from Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 11 March expressing the concerns raised by Sub-Committee D in respect of the above proposal.

  As this proposal has yet to be discussed with Member States, either in the Special Committee for Agriculture or in Council Working Group, it is difficult, at this stage, to forecast exactly how any one Member State may benefit from more assistance than another. There will inevitably be some producers who benefit from more support than others due to the nature of their produce (eg olive oil or wine, which are already identified in the proposal). But the proposal excludes promotion of Member States' own national produce and promotion of commercial brand names and you may rest assured that we shall seek to minimise any attempt to do so.

  Our aim is that any resulting Regulation to come out of this proposal is fair. If, or when, the Regulation is made we would, of course, seek to encourage UK promotional bodies to make maximum use of any resource made available. We envisage a pro-active approach towards this through the operations of existing bodies such as Food From Britain, the Meat and Livestock Commission and British Cereals Exports, to name but a few, in addition to my Department's own export promotional activities.

  Finally, the Committee asked how it would be possible to separate out the association's expenditure on "generic" promotion (which may be funded) from expenditure on the promotion of specific products (which may not). Again, this is difficult to answer at this early stage. Whilst the proposal as drafted specifically excludes the promotion of product brand names—a task normally associated with national export promotion agencies—no explanation is offered of what is meant by "generic promotion". This is something we shall seek to define once negotiations commence.

  I shall keep you informed as matters progress.

31 March 1999


 
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